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A victory for a Turkish Cypriot...

by Upstate NY Tue Feb 14th, 2006 at 03:15:53 PM EST

may be a potential problem for both sides of the Cyprus conflict.

I'm unable to link to an important bit of news in Cyprus because the cyprus-mail.com page has a header that prevents linking to articles, but if you peruse that site you'll find an article which states that Turkish Cypriot Arif Mustafa has won the right to regain his property in the south after fleeing to the north during the Turkish invasion in 1974. His property has housed Greek Cypriot refugees from the north until yesterday. This move sets a precedent.
Oddly, no Turkish Cypriot had sued for their rights to property in the south until recently. Greek Cypriots have also only recently begun suing for the rights to property in the north (Titina Loizidou won a judgment from the ECHR a few years ago, though she hasn't yet been allowed into the house).

Mustafa's victory is important for a number of reasons.

One, almost 200,000 Greek Cypriots fled the north in 1974, about 1/3rd of the total population. Refugee housing was difficult to come by and so the homes of a much smaller number of Turkish Cypriots fleeing to the north were appropriated. Thus, Mustafa's victory effectively displaces the Greek Cypriots who were living in his home. This is part of the story as portrayed in the Cypriot news media.

Two, the big fear is that such suits will become increasingly popular and that, though the images of twice displaced refugees may be a difficult pill for some Greek Cypriots to swallow, even more dangerous is the precedent that property disputes will be settled legally. Once this precedent is established, the negotiations for a solution to the Cyprus problem become even murkier. In the Annan Plan itself, there were provisions which made it legally possible to disqualify former homeowners from returning to their properties. Instead, they were to be compensated at 1974 prices for their land. In fact, there was a fifteen year embargo on Greek Cypriots returning to or buying land in the north which stood in stark contrast to the allowance made for EU citizens of all other nationalities, even Greeks from Greece, who were allowed to purchase land in the north immediately.  

The legal route by Mustafa will make such provisions more difficult, and will entangle both sides in the property issue. That's why neither the Turkish side nor the Greek side is encouraging people to sue for property rights. Both sides know that any resolution will be easier if sweeping new property laws are made as envisaged in the Annan Plan. If the Mustafa verdict (as upheld legally by the Cypriot courts as a matter of law) starts a fire, then one of the Annan Plan's basic chapters (on property rights) will become defunct. For now, maybe the Mustafa decision is a one-off. The threat is that more Turkish Cypriots will sue for their property rights, thereby making any property swaps in an eventual unification redundant.

Part of me is chering on these individuals as they use legal means to restore their rights. I think everyone should have their rights restored. But another part of me fears that this may make the problem more intractable. For now, I think Mustafa's victory is a very good thing. The Greek Cypriot gov't, however, is very concerned that it weighs heavily on public sentiment.

Thanks for keeping us posted on Cypriot developments...it is pretty astounding that this kind of stuff is going on in modern Europe...

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 03:32:23 AM EST
Ah, welcome to Cyprus, home to a generation of people who grew up under colonialist rule. It's only 40 odd years later, and they haven't quite gotten with the program yet.
by Upstate NY on Wed Feb 15th, 2006 at 10:31:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
>>A<< Generation? Prior to 1960 when was the last time Cyprus was independant? 314 BC?
by messy on Thu Feb 16th, 2006 at 02:52:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good question. I was just assuming that anyone older than the current generation of rulers (who all grew up under colonialism and would now qualify as political dinosaurs) is dead.

Unfortunately, the only people with happy memories of peaceful coexistence between Greeks and Turks are also of that generation.

by Upstate NY on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 12:22:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe the only way to force a "political" solition to the Cyprus quastion is for this "little problem" to become bigger.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Feb 16th, 2006 at 11:31:43 AM EST
It could be that chaos is the right formula. Let the people take control of their own rights and leave all the oligopolies holding the bag. Ignore all the money interests, the international bankers, the military bases, the EU, UN, US, Greek, Turkish, UK interests, etc.

Just give them their homes and leave them alone to live in peace.

by Upstate NY on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 12:20:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, it is likely that the two sides will get entangled in the property issue. It is nice to fight for your rights legally, but the situation on the island of Cyprus is such that instead of trying to get it all now, the residents need to forego immediate satisfaction about some things and focus on how to live together peacefully in the long run. The best way to do that is through unification.

Turkish Cyprus will especially benefit from that. Unification will finally allow it to be internationally recognized. Right now, it still heavily depends on economic aid from Turkey and it's not a self-sufficient actor. But the good news is that the president of Turkish Cyprus supports unification.

The resolution of the Cyprus issue will also help Turkey in its EU accession efforts. Except that Turkey is still refusing to recognize the whole island.:)

by Brownie on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 01:57:29 AM EST
I actually don't put too much stock in this idea that the North or the South supports unification. As always, it's a question of "whose" unification one supports. Either group on each side of the island will tend to support a unification that contains the essential compromises they insist on, but as soon as these are taken out of the UN texts, then both sides have been known reject unification.

That's the real problem. They've been waiting 30 years for a solution, and it's been a rocky road.

by Upstate NY on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 10:37:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yup. But they need to realize, each side, that compromise is inevitable.
by Brownie on Fri Feb 17th, 2006 at 11:25:34 AM EST

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